Category: Film awards lists

My favourite films in 2015



This was quite a good year for new releases. The best, for me, were as follows: in the order that I saw them:

Selma USA 2014.

A model of what a biopic should be and combining intelligence with mainstream production values.

Mummy Canada 2014

The film’s intensity was increased by the use of an unusual aspect ratio.

Phoenix, Germany 2014

A great combination of noir and Kurt Weill.

Bande de Filles (Girlhood) France 2014

A pleasure to watch, but serious with it.

A Pigeon sat on a Branch and Reflected on Life (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron) Sweden, Norway 2014.

The film manages to be both droll and surreal at the same time.

Timbuktu Mauritania 2014

The first intelligent film about jihadists and the best football sequence in years.

45 Years UK 2015

Slow, elegant and very complex: the acting performances of the year.

Taxi (Taxi Teheran) Iran 2015

Subversion was rarely so witty or so much fun.

The Assassin (Nie yin Niang) China, Taiwan, Hong Kong 2015

Slow and with a tricky plot, but visually and aurally stunning.

Carol USA 2015

What other praise than this is as good as the Patricia Highsmith original novel.

Best Animation:

Song of the Sea Eire 2014

Beautiful traditional animation: lovely dog.

White God

White God

Best Canines:

White God (Fehér isten) Hungary 2014.

The largest and the most impressively led pack of dogs seen in ages.

Best Documentaries:

National Gallery, France, USA, UK 2014

Frederick Wiseman’s typical and completely absorbing portrait of a British artistic institution.

Letter to the Editor of Amateur Photography, UK 2013

The pleasure of watching radical documentary form: unfortunately it has had only a limited screenings.

Best wedding on film:

Wild Tales (Relatos salvaje) Argentina 2014

The best portmanteau film of the year and my most hilarious moments in cinema.

Most impressive silent film, by a narrow margin:

Les Misérables France 1928


This screened at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in a fine restoration, which ran for six hours: about the time you needed to read part one of the book.

Best film accompaniment:

This was the Benshi, Ichiro Kataoka, who accompanied Chuji Tabinikki / A Diary of Chuji’s Travels (Japan, 1928) along with the Otawasa Ensemble. This was another fine restoration also screened at Il Giornate del Cinema Muto.

Best early sound film:

Tell England UK 1931 screened at the British Silent Film Festival and demonstrated that how well some filmmaker used the new technology.

The film most worth waiting for:

The Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana) Poland 1975.

Director Andrzej Wajda’s epic of C19th capitalism in Łódź. And the series of Polish classics, partly organised by Martin Scorsese, was excellent.

The worst films that I sat through this year – a tie between,

Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Netherlands, Mexico, Belgium, Finland, France 2015

Steve Jobs USA 2015.

Both films had proficient technical aspects but both were idiosyncratic biopics, which showed little interest in the situation of the subject.

2015 in the cinema

GIRLHOOD – my most viewed film of the year.

GIRLHOOD – my most viewed film of the year.

Here are the ten films, released in UK cinemas in 2015, that I enjoyed most or which made the most impression on me this year. I’ve placed them in alphabetical order:

Carol (UK-US-France 2015)

Girlhood (France 2014)

Mia Madre (Italy-France 2015)

OK Kanmani (India, Tamil 2015)

Phoenix (Germany 2014)

Piku (India, Hindi 2015)

Taxi Tehran (Iran 2015)

Theeb (Jordan 2015)

Timbuktu (Mauritania-France 2014)

West (Lagerfeuer, Germany 2013)

Because this is a list of ‘most enjoyed’, it’s obviously a list reflecting my taste. Although only one title was directed by a woman (Girlhood), four films could be described as female-centred melodramas, two as romance/family dramas, two as political ‘statements’ and just one as an ‘action narrative’ – and Theeb is an action adventure from a young boy’s perspective.

Half of the ten films above are  films that I have introduced, discussed or formally taught this year. Girlhood stands out as I saw it four times on four different cinema screens in the space of a year, as well as studying several scenes in detail. Each time I watched it I got something new from it. I also presented and discussed Ex Machina for students and it proved a good choice for a student event, provoking an interesting set of questions.

I don’t rank or ‘grade’ films since this seems a pointless exercise, based on a wide range of criteria that aren’t applicable to every film. There are several films that I missed which may well have appeared on my list. In my part of West Yorkshire we get most film releases but not all and I can only get to Manchester or Sheffield occasionally rather than all the time. I’m most sorry to have missed Alexei German’s Hard to be a God and several of the Polish classics in the touring season.

Even though more and more documentaries are released in cinemas each year, I tend to see only a handful. Amy has appeared in many end of year lists and I can understand why. For my own part, I need a documentary to offer three very different pleasures – an interesting subject, an aesthetic approach that works and a filmmaker whose viewpoint I can appreciate, even if I don’t agree with it. That’s a tall order and the nearest to meeting it this year was probably The Salt of the Earth.

I did watch some American films this year including Mad Max: Fury Road and Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. I did enjoy both screenings, partly because of the public debates about the films and at the time I felt engaged by the debates – but the films themselves didn’t make a lasting impression. Spy proved to be good entertainment for a night out. But the best American films I saw tended to be archive films or restorations. Missouri Breaks surprised me and my love of Westerns is still there. Can I bring myself to spend three hours with Quentin Tarantino next month?

I only managed four festivals this year, all in the UK. Glasgow Film Festival was very enjoyable and most of the films I saw eventually got a UK release (except the Chinese films). I only made two films at Leeds and Crow’s Egg did get a very limited UK release (six screens) and perhaps should have been in my list of ten. ¡Viva! was in three parts this year and proved as fascinating as usual – but sadly Spanish and Latin American films rarely get a UK release. Travelling to Manchester to see these films, and often to listen to the directors, remains a surreal experience and the failure of UK film culture to properly embrace the films is a continual disappointment. Much the same can be said for the excellent films that turn up each year at the London Film Festival and rarely screen anywhere else in the UK. Thirst and Arianna were the two films that really stood out for me. What I’ve missed, most of all, is my local festival in Bradford. Will we ever get it back? It makes a mockery of Bradford’s title as the first ‘UNESCO City of Film’.

2015 has ended very badly for me. The triple whammy of Spectre, Hunger Games and Star Wars has driven out virtually every foreign language film (apart from Indian films) from UK cinema screens. It’s Christmas and I can’t find anything locally to go and see. Radio 4’s Film Programme on Christmas Eve was depressing with three guests giving each other DVDs of their pick of the year’s films as Christmas gifts. Predictably all were American. Only Francine Stock’s championing of Girlhood prevented me from switching off the programme. With the ‘awards season’ coming up and the prestige US pictures replacing the blockbusters, January also promises to be grim – but Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Assassin is due for a UK release. Even so, I think I’m going to be watching more DVDs in 2016.

The Theory of Everything (UK 2014)


This newly released film looks set to do well in the Award Season, especially at the UK BAFTAS, having already won a Golden Globe for its star. It does posses a lot of the qualities that have pleased the BAFTA membership, including the fine acting that so frequently graces British films. However, despite a dramatic and ultimately feel-good real-life story as a basis, it rather fails to engage. I think the problems lies in the scripting and direction, as the production values are pretty good.

The film seems to be inhibited by that sense of ‘good taste’ that is so common in British films. To give one example [which as it is a recorded event is hardly a plot spoiler], late in the film Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) attend an investiture at Buckingham Palace. We see the fore and after but not the actual event, which feels like an anti-climax. The same decorum also inhibits the sexual relations which are an important part of the story.

The film also suffers from a common problem with biopics – how to convey complex ideas without becoming complicated. One way used in this production occurs at the film’s end. The plot is reversed in a brief and rapid montage: a sort of mini-Benjamin Button. One can guess at the intended relationship to Stephen Hawkins’s famous work on Time: but it feels facile. The film is taken from the memoir by Jane: whilst the film shows her engaging with Stephen’s theorising the focus is personal rather than scientific.

But what the film really lacks is intensity. It crosses over in some ways with two earlier films – My Left Foot (UK 1989) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (US/France 2007). But those films not only enjoy fine lead performances, they also generate a sense of emotion that seems to engage most audiences. I rather think this film fails on that account.

Where have all the foreign language movies gone?

In the last few years, January has become a desert as far as diversity in UK cinemas is concerned. The US/UK ‘awards films’ fill all the specialised cinema screens that would usually take a major foreign language film release. Distributors are discouraged from competition with Hollywood and mainstream independent distributors. So, currently, 12 Years a Slave (eOne), American Hustle (Columbia/Entertainment) and Gravity (Warner Bros) are still in cinemas alongside The Wolf of Wall Street (Universal). Dallas Buyers’ Club (Universal) and Her (Warner Bros/Entertainment) are to open soon. We did get The Missing Picture the Cambodian entry for Foreign Language film (in French) a couple of weeks ago but only in a very small number of cinemas and the Palestinian entry Omar has not yet been released in the UK.

I’ve complained about this before but it is getting worse and as Charles Gant reported in Sight and Sound (February), 2013 was the worst year for foreign language films at the UK box office since he started monitoring data in 2007. I genuinely fear that we are going to lose the audience for these films. The two most dynamic film industries in the world in terms of production and domestic success in 2013 are China and South Korea. When was the last time you saw a Chinese or Korean film at the cinema? I should point out that both exhibitors and distributors are part of the problem, but both are likely to rely on perceptions of what audiences want. Where do these perceptions come from? If younger audiences have never had the chance to see foreign language films how can they form a view about them?

It’s very important to support any foreign language films you can find on release. We do get regular South Asian films in our multiplexes but they remain ghettoised. Please, please go and see what is on offer. I’m hoping to catch a Pakistani film today and a Chinese film on Tuesday (a special screening at Cornerhouse by the indispensable Chinese Film Forum UK). I’m also looking forward to tonight’s last two episodes of The Bridge on BBC4. The popularity of foreign language drama on UK TV is one of the few pluses at the moment.

February should bring the new Claire Denis film Bastards and Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best – while the former is most likely to attract devotees, the latter sounds like a return to more accessible filmmaking. I’m sure both will feature on the blog and I hope they find their audiences in cinemas.

“And the Award goes to … “

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

There has been much coverage of the Film Awards season in the media: The Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild, The BAFTAS, and The Academy Awards. The last two have yet to arrive, but there is already an amount of speculation, and apparently betting. Most of the media only discuss the major awards: credit though to BBC2’s Newsnight which had short interviews with the filmmakers involved in two ‘minor’ awards – Best Documentary Feature – “The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer and Best Documentary Short Subject – “Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
Some critics like Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian already fear that ‘the best film will not win’. Which raises the question ‘whose best film’? None of my favourites for the year received a nomination; not surprising. Only one film in the Sight & Sound (January, 2014) top ten in its list for the year made it into the major awards. Of the other main contenders only 12 Years a Slave managed a position, at joint fourteen. The nominations, with the exceptions of the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short Film, Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short Film, are all taken from mainstream Box Office successes. In fact, the general audience have presumably already voted at the Box Office. And as Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian pointed out, there is an observable gap between the Box Office choice and that of the Academy members.

What is more worrying about the Academy members’ choices is on what basis they choose. Peter Bradshaw bemoaned that not all the members would watch the nominated films on the DVDs provided. I rather think they have now moved on to Blu-Ray. Whatever, this is not strictly film and certainly not cinema. I suspect that a large number of votes at the Screen Actors’ Guild, the BAFTAS and the Oscars will be based on watching video. Of course, it may be high definition and it may be on 50 inch Television or Plasma screens. One assumes that the Foreign Press Association do actually watch films at the cinema.

I did. On the day that the Oscar nominations were announced I went to see Nairobi a Half Life (Kenya, 2012), a film proposed for the Academy’s awards but which did not manage a nomination in the Foreign Language Film category. It is an uneven film but I thought it better than at least one title in the Sight & Sound list. My enjoyment was partly fuelled by the gasps etc by fellow audience members at moments of tension and our shared laughter at the macabre but witty moments. Watching it on video would be only half the experience.

BIFF 2013 #21: European Features Competition

Maria Dragas, star of 'Kill Me' speaking after receiving the European Features award on behalf of Emily Latef – watched by Tom Vincent and Neil Young, Festival Directors.

Maria Dragus, star of ‘Kill Me’ speaking after receiving the European Features award on behalf of Emily Latef – watched by Tom Vincent and Neil Young, Festival Directors.

BIFF19logoLast year’s inaugural European Features Competition featured six films by debutant directors. This year there were another three first-timers plus three established filmmakers. Again the six films have not achieved UK distribution and Festival Director Tom Vincent told us at the award ceremony that this was the chief aim of the prize – to highlight films that UK distributors had missed and should perhaps reconsider. The festival brochure doesn’t tell us what the judging criteria are – which strikes me as problematic. There were three jurors: Stephanie Bunbury is a film journalist from Australia, Hannah McGill is well-known in the UK as one-time director of the Edinburg International Film Festival and is now a critic and film journalist and Martijn Maria Smits is a writer-director from the Netherlands.

As far as I’m aware, the three judges saw all six films at the beginning of the festival and none of them were present at the announcement on Sunday evening. It seems to me that operating in this way, the judges will not have had any sense of how audiences reacted to the films. I wonder therefore if they will have judged the films on the basis of their appeal as ‘festival films’. By this I mean a film that appeals directly to festival professionals and audiences who seek out festivals rather than to a mainstream or arthouse audience. People generally watch films differently in festivals I think.

I thought before the official announcement that the judges may well choose Kill Me directed by Emily Atef. This was the only one of the six entries that I hadn’t blogged on – for the simple reason that I had missed the opening 15-20 minutes and I didn’t want to comment without seeing the whole film. Emily Atef has won several festival prizes for her work and I thought her film would appeal most to the judges. My guess proved correct and though the director wasn’t present, the young star of the film Maria Dragus had flown into Bradford specially. She was clearly delighted that the film won the prize. I had planned to watch the opening of the film so I stayed on for the screening – knowing I would have to leave after about 30 minutes for a meeting. Unfortunately, I was sat directly in front of Ms Dragus so I hope she wasn’t offended when I sneaked out. Now I’ve seen the whole film I will write it up, but if you are wondering, it offers the unlikely pairing of a teenage girl on a farm in Germany who runs off with an escaped prisoner. The odd couple has an uneasy relationship which is explored in a form of ‘road movie’.

Apart from Kill Me, there was a ‘special mention’ of A Night Too Young and its director Olmo Omerzu was present. The young boy’s face in that film with its young/old appearance will stay with me for some time and I certainly support the judges in singling out a film and a filmmaker that both deserve more attention. All six films in the competition were worth consideration for wider distribution and it was a strong field. The award this year was sponsored by ‘Bradford First UNESCO City of Film’ and its director David Wilson presented it to Maria Dragus. I think the ideas behind the award are very good and it is something that BIFF could build on, but to actually convince a distributor to take up any of these films in the UK is going to require more – perhaps several festivals could combine to give European films more focus. The New British Cinema Quarterly scheme sees a package of British films getting a limited release. How about a New European Cinema Quarterly? Britain is the toughest market in Europe for ‘European’ films so anything might help. But for now, let’s celebrate the European Features Award. Kill Me review to follow.

Favourites from 2012


Once upon a time in Anatolia

I am afraid I am the last to post a listing for 2012, however I have been laid low with a viral infection: fortunately there were not a lot of exciting new releases around. However, unlike Des, I thought 2013 was a great year for films.

Five favourite new releases:

Once upon a Time in Anatolia / Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da, Turkey / Bosnia-Herzegovina 2011.
I saw this film three times. It retained its luminous images and sounds but increased in complexity at every viewing.

The Nine Muses, UK 2010
A documentary by John Akomfrah and some of his colleagues from the old Black Audio Film Collective. The film was challenging but beautifully filmed and recorded with highly intelligent content.

My Week with Marilyn, USA / UK 2011
Not a great film, but a great performance by Michelle Williams. In one scene she poses at the foot of a stairwell for the working members of the royal household – you could be back in the 1950s actually watching Marilyn.

About Elly / ‘Darbareye Elly’, France / Iran 2009.
This film received a UK cinema release because of the success of the director’s more recent Nader and Simin, A Separation / Jodaelye Nader az Simin, 2011. Unfortunately his earlier film Fireworks Wednesday (2006) is apparently only being made available on DVD.

Amour, France / Germany / Austria 2012.
The film has fine direction from Michael Haneke, but what most impresses are the performances – Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert and, notably, Emmanuelle Riva. Emmanuelle Riva’s first film was Hiroshima mon Amour (1958); now 85, and fifty five years later comes Amour – what a spring and winter of a career.

Five re-issues or restorations on film and other formats.

Die Weber

Die Weber

Die Weber / The Weavers, Germany 1927
This classic silent political drama has been restored by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Stiftung [the film archive in Wiesbaden]. I was fortunate enough to see this both at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna where the film enjoyed a musical accompaniment of a soundtrack on the print. Then I saw it a second time at Il Giornate del Cinema Muto where it was accompanied by a live piano accompaniment. Both occasions used the DCP format: the transfer seemed pretty good, but the black and white image did lack the tonal range likely on 35mm. Even so it impressed, as did the cast that included William Dieterle and Arthur Krauβneck. They are part of a C19th Weaver’s revolt against lowering wages and the introduction of machines – territory paralleling the studies of E P Thompson.

Girls of Dark / Onna bakari no yoru, Japan 1962.
This was one of the most interesting films in the Tanaka Kinuyo retrospective at the Leeds International Film Festival. It looked good in black and white Tohoscope. And it was a fascinating women’s drama with a memorable final sequence.

Tess, France UK 1979.
Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel has been restored by Pathé and Éclair using digital technology. It is released in the UK in 2013 and should be in a 4K digital version. I saw it at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. The screening started at 1030 p.m. so I only planned to watch the first hour – but it looked so good I was seduced into the whole three hours.

Marcel Ophüls and Jean-Luc Godard: The St-Gervais Meeting, Switzerland 2011.
This recording was filmed and screened in a digital format at the Bradford International Film Festival and runs for 44 minutes. We witness a conversation between two of the most intelligent, intriguing but utterly contrasting filmmakers in modern cinema. The meeting is fascinating, illuminating and extremely witty.

James Cagney DVDs.
I found three DVDs in a 50p basket outside a local shop – Public Enemy 1931, Roaring Twenties 1939 and White Heat 1949. I watched them one evening after another over the weekend. Another revival this year was a 1980s Parkinson television interview with Orson Welles. At one point Welles claimed that Cagney was the greatest screen actor of all, [he presumably was thinking mainly of Hollywood]. An unusual choice, but after watching these three classics I think he could be right.

And, finally the least favourites ….

Beasts of the Southern Wild, USA 2012.
I thought this the most over-praised film of the year: and now its up for Oscars!

A Dangerous Method, UK 2011
I thought this contained the most over-praised performance of the year.

The Master, USA 2012-12-22
I found this the most interminable film of the year.

I should add that the above film was actually surpassed by one I watched on Film Four – The Notebook, USA 2012. However, this last film did bring to my attention my favourite caustic comment I read this year – Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review quoted in Halliwell’s DVD & Video Guide:

“Dentistry in the Renaissance could not have been more painful than watching this.”

That was 2012 in film – Des 1967’s lists

Happy New year to everyone and apologies for the delay in my contribution. Just recovering from chaos of Hogmanay.

I didn’t find 2012 as good as the previous few years but I managed to miss some films which I was very keen to see, including Holy Motors, The Master (I thought Anderson’s Magnolia one of the best films of the 1990s), About Elly, This is Not a Film, Berberian Sound Studio, Shadow Dancer. Some of these will no doubt appear on my 2013 DVD list.

I’ve chosen ten on the UK cinema release list because I can’t find an obvious five which are far better than the next five and these are not necessarily in any order:

Rust and Bone (France/Belgium)

I usually have to psyche myself up to watch films featuring severe physical injury but the performance of Cotillard in particular made me overcome my squeamishness. Also a fine performance by Matthias Schoenaerts whose character’s lack of emotion at the beginning helped Stephanie to get beyond self-pity and rebuild her life. Alain couldn’t stay frozen forever and his transformation was incredibly well done.

Le Havre (Finland/France/Germany)

A Chaplinesque good-hearted fairy-tale about a group of ‘small people’ in the port area of Le Havre conspiring to help an immigrant boy on his way to join his mother in London keep out of the hands of the police. A sort of Finnish hommage to French poetic realism.

Goodbye First Love (France/Germany)

I’ve never been a fan of Rohmer but this film has the qualities fans of Rohmer often describe.

Anna Karenina (UK)

Costume drama needs a rethink and this is one of the most radical.

The Hunt (Jagten, Denmark/Sweden 2012)

Seems to be a common denominator among contributors so it must have something special going for it.

Liberal Arts (USA)

34-year-old Nat visits his old university and falls for Zibby, the bright 19-year-old daughter of his former professor’s friends. Could be classed as a romcom but the term doesn’t quite catch the mood and tone of the film. Terrific performances, especially by minor characters and by Elizabeth Olsen who threatens to put in the shade  her more famous sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley. Something  endearingly old-fashioned about the contact of the two protagonists – by letter. Here’s a clip of the couple’s correspondence rendered by voice-over which catches the flavour of the film.:

Your Sister’s Sister (USA)

Another American indy production. Interesting relationship triangle between a man and two sisters, witty and engaging. A bit of a rough diamond of a romcom.

Untouchable (France)

An uplifting comedy about the friendship that develops between a wealthy quadriplegic and his carer, Driss, an ex-convict. Has become the most seen film in French history and already doing better abroad than The Artist.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (France 2012)

A union official made redundant and his wife struggle to apply their long-held socialist principles faced with adversity.

Monsieur  Lazhar (Canada)

There seems to be a real flourishing of film in Quebec in recent years and this is a fine example.

An honourable mention to The Angels Share and a dishonourable mention to two American comedies which were both immature and very funny: Ted and 21 Jump Street.


DVD/TV/Festivals etc.

Once Upon a Time The Revolution/Duck You Sucker (Italy 1971)

Tends to be overlooked in comparison to the other two “Once Upon a Time” Leone films (The West and America) but still great, ebullient film making.

The Minister  (France/Belgium, 2011) (TOTAL French Film Festival)

Terrific performance by Olivier Gourmet (whom I’d only seen in Dardennes Brothers films such as The Son) in which he plays a government minister under pressure.

Sarah’s Key   (France, 2010)

Two time periods, Paris in 1942, during the notorious round-ups of the Jews by the Paris police, and present-day Paris and New York. A journalist (Kristin Scott-Thomas) suspects her in-laws may have benefitted from the Jews’ misfortune over 60 years before. In some way more effective in portraying these events than La Rafle.

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (France, 2008)

Family melodrama which follows the story of a tumultuous family over five important days in their lives.

C.R.A.Z.Y. (Canada, 2005)

Another family melodrama, this time set in Canada. It tells the story of conservative father (a great country fan – which will explain the title) and his relationship with his five sons, in 1960s and 1970s Quebec and in particular Zac, a young gay man dealing with homophobia. 

Café de Flor (Canada/France, 2011)

Another Quebec film (also written and directed by Jean-Mark Vallé) which cuts between two seemingly unrelated stories. One set in Montréal dealing with the relationship between a successful DJ, his new, younger girlfriend and his still-complicated relationship with his ex-wife who can’t let go. The other, set in 1960s Paris, stars Vanessa Paradis as a fiercely protective single mother of a child with Down syndrome

Even the Rain  (Spain, 2010)

While a director and his crew shoot a controversial film about Christopher Columbus in Cochabamba, Bolivia, local people rise up against plans to privatize the water supply.


The final two are Spanish films directed by Fernando Trueba, a Christmas gift from Madrid. Probably on my list as seen most recently but they refuted the common claim that in Spain there is only Almodóvar.

Belle Époque (Spain/Portugal, 1992)

Set in Spain in 1931 Fernando, a young soldier, deserts from the army and is welcomed by the owner of a farm due to his libertarian political ideas. The man has four daughters, all of whom Fernando is attracted to and they to him , so he has to decide which one to love. Despite the subtext consisting of the issues that lead to the Civil War 5 years later, this is really a fairy-tale. I  think I would have hated it back in 1992 when it first came out, when Spanish film (and Spanish political culture generally) avoided any real issues to do with the Civil War (the so-called “pact of forgetting”). But seeing it now,  really enjoyed it and its utopian aspirations.

Chico and Rita (Spain/UK, 2010)

An animated feature-length film, the story of Chico, a pianist, and Rita, a singer, is set against backdrops of Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Strange having such a sexy animated film (outside Japan!). I probably still associate, subconsciously, animation with kids’ films. Good story, excellent animation, wonderful music.


What of 2013? Looking forward to seeing the films mentioned by other contributors, and want to fill a lacuna in my viewing experience by getting to grips with Kenji Mizoguchi. As for telly, looking forward to Season 4 of Engrenages/Spiral and the final half season of  Breaking Bad, one of the best US series but almost invisible in the UK.

And a New Year Resolution – not to go and see blockbusters because influential reviewers tell me how good and original they are – such as Skyfall, the latest Bond film, which bored me to tears after half an hour.